Literary and Critical Theory Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Sourav Banerjee
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780190221911-0138


Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (b. 1770–d. 1831) is considered to be one of the founding figures of modern Western philosophy, and is also one of the most important figures in German idealism. His influence encompasses the whole gamut of contemporary philosophical issues, ranging from political philosophy to metaphysical issues in epistemology and ontology, philosophy of religion, philosophy of art, philosophy of history, and the history of philosophy. Born during the transitional period between the Enlightenment and the Romantic movements in the German regions of Europe, Hegel lived during the period of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars and was greatly influenced by them. Hegel went to the German School and then the Latin School, studied at Stuttgart’s Eberhard-Ludwigs-Gymnasium, and read authors like the poet Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock and writers associated with the Enlightenment, such as Christian Garve and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. In 1844, Hegel’s first biographer, Karl Rosenkranz described the young Hegel’s education by saying that it “belonged entirely to the Enlightenment with respect to principle, and entirely to classical antiquity with respect to curriculum.” His fame rests predominantly upon three of his achievements: The Phenomenology of Spirit, The Science of Logic, and finally the lectures he delivered at the University of Berlin on various topics from his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences. Throughout his work, he endeavored to address and rectify the problematic dualisms that existed in modern philosophy, essentially by referring to the resources of ancient philosophy, particularly Aristotle. Hegel vehemently argued that reason and freedom are not natural givens to men, but are historically achieved. His dialectical hypothetical procedure is based on the principle of immanence. Taking skepticism seriously, he contends that we cannot presume any truths that have not passed the test of experience; even the a priori categories of “the Logic” must attain their “verification” in the natural world and the historical accomplishments of mankind. Guided by the Delphic imperative to “know thyself,” Hegel presents free self-determination as the essence of mankind—a conclusion from his 1806–1807 Phenomenology that he argues is substantiated by the interdependence of logic, nature, and spirit in his later Encyclopedia. His claim is that Logic both conserves and incapacitates the dualism of whatever is mental and material, or in other words it covers both the difference and continuity of the fields of nature and culture. Hegel’s thought continues to exercise enormous influence across a wide variety of traditions in Western philosophy.

General Overviews

Although studies of Hegel are vast, scholars have rarely addressed his oeuvre as a whole, but rather have concentrated on a particular genre or a particular text. Beiser 1993 provides an exploration of all the major aspects of Hegel’s works, and Taylor 1975 is a major and comprehensive study of the philosophy of Hegel and his place in the history of ideas. Between them, these two provide a good general overview of Hegel’s oeuvre. Dickey 1987 outlines the development of Hegel up to The Phenomenology of Spirit.

  • Beiser, Frederick C., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1993.

    This volume considers all the major aspects of Hegel’s work, such as epistemology and logic. Special attention is devoted to problems in the interpretation of Hegel, such as the unity of the Phenomenology of Spirit, the value of the dialectical method, the status of his logic, and the nature of his politics. A final chapter treats Hegel’s complex historical legacy—namely, the relation of Hegel and Marx—and the subtle connections between Hegel and contemporary analytic philosophy.

  • Beiser, Frederick C., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Hegel and Nineteenth-Century Philosophy. Cambridge Companions to Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/CCOL9780521831673

    Examines Hegel within his broader historical and philosophical contexts. Covering all major aspects of Hegel’s philosophy, this edited volume provides an introduction to his logic, epistemology, philosophy of mind, social and political philosophy, philosophy of nature, and aesthetics. The volume begins with Terry Pinkard’s article on Hegel’s life, and explores topics neglected in Hegel scholarship, such as Hegel’s hermeneutics and relationship to mysticism. The bibliography includes the most important English-language literature on Hegel written in the twenty years preceding the publication of this edition.

  • Brooks, Thom. Hegel’s Political Philosophy: A Systematic Reading of the Philosophy of Right. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.

    Covers a number of topics in Hegel’s political philosophy and demonstrates how his Philosophy of Right can be better understood by reading his works methodically.

  • Buchetmann, Elias. Hegel and the Representative Constitution. Ideas in Context 147. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2023.

    DOI: 10.1017/9781009305983

    This book is the inaugural comprehensive exploration of the institutional element within Hegel’s political philosophy, thoroughly investigating this frequently overlooked aspect, providing extensive contextual analysis, and arguing that his work the Philosophy of Right (1820) should be understood as contributing to the extensive public discourse surrounding constitutional matters in Central Europe at that time. Additionally, this work sheds light on the broader political conversations taking place in Germany after the Napoleonic era, portraying Hegel as more akin to a prominent public thinker rather than solely a philosopher.

  • Dale, Eric Michael. Hegel, the End of History, and the Future. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781107477711

    Dale provides an interpretation of his own, illustrating how it fits into Hegel’s overall framework and allows for a proper comprehension of the “end of history” as intended by Hegel. By examining Hegel’s philosophy of history in a thoughtful manner, Dale steers readers away from the typical misinterpretation of the “end of history” and highlights other overlooked yet significant aspects of Hegel’s arguments that should be appreciated in the long run.

  • Dickey, Laurence. Hegel: Religion, Economics, and the Politics of Spirit, 1770–1807. Ideas in Context. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511624742

    Key scholarship that traces the intellectual development of Hegel until his writing of The Phenomenology of Spirit, which contends that Hegel’s work is best appreciated when studied within the framework of the liberalization of German Protestantism that happened during the eighteenth century.

  • Rosen, Michael. Hegel’s Dialectic and Its Criticism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511624841

    In his discussion, the author addresses the philosophical matters related to understanding history and suggests an original and thought-provoking approach to addressing the issue of Hegel’s vulnerability to criticism. Contrary to popular belief, Rosen argues that Hegel’s philosophy does not rely on a universal and assumption-free understanding of reason. Rosen concludes that any efforts to rehabilitate Hegel are misguided, as they stem from a misunderstanding; in examining the speculative and mystical core of Hegel’s concepts, the irrational aspect becomes evident.

  • Speight, Allen. The Philosophy of Hegel. Continental European Philosophy. Stockfield, UK: Acumen Publishing, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1017/UPO9781844653805

    Speight approaches Hegel’s philosophy by tracing its chronological progression. He begins by delving into Hegel’s early writings and works before the Phenomenology, and subsequently offers an in-depth analysis of the Phenomenology. Following this, the author explores the Logic and the interconnectedness between the categories of Hegel’s logic and nature or spirit (Geist). The last sections of the book focus on Hegel’s ethical and political ideologies.

  • Taylor, Charles. Hegel. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1975.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139171465

    The work deeply examines Hegel’s philosophy and his significance within the realm of ideas. Professor Taylor establishes connections between Hegel and the earlier history of philosophical thought, as well as the prevailing intellectual and spiritual concerns of his era. Taylor uncovers a profound contrast between the ongoing pursuit of individuality and personal growth, and the inherent human longing for meaningful connections within a broader community.

  • Taylor, Charles. Hegel and Modern Society. Cambridge Philosophy Classics. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781316286630

    This analysis delves into the aspects of Hegel’s social and political ideology that hold the utmost significance in today’s society. In opposition to the common belief post–World War II that Hegel supported fascism, Charles Taylor contends that Hegel’s intention was not to disregard individual rights, but rather to harmonize them with the inherent value of belonging to a community. This enduring piece of literature includes an original preface from Frederick Neuhouser.

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